IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Raising educational outcomes for pupils with SEN and disabilities (MetaSENse)

This research project will evaluate different interventions (Tier 2 and Tier 3) to support the learning of pupils with special education needs and disabilities.

The project has the following aims:

  1. Providing insight into whether support should be specific or whether it can be generalised across different groups of SEND needs, so that practitioners can improve the effectiveness of support for pupils with SEND.
  2. Producing knowledge of what works for groups of SEND needs, and in which contexts, should provide insight into cognitive mechanisms that are important to improving educational outcomes in different SEND groups, and can therefore inform the development of new targeted interventions.
  3. Exploring how targeted interventions are selected and identifying perceived barriers to implementation, to help inform approaches to intervention selection and practitioners’ training requirements.

The key stakeholders for this research are academics, educational professionals, school leadership, parents and policymakers. A practitioner’s toolkit will be developed to share workable evidence-based solutions. This will include a database of interventions and outcomes, infographic to summarise findings, evidence gap map, briefing paper, video tutorial, summary report, and a podcast.

This project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation and will run from October 2022 to April 2024.


The number of pupils identified as having Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) has been steadily rising. In 2020/21, national statistics showed that 12% of pupils in mainstream classrooms had SEND. The SEND code of practice divides pupils with SEND into four categories of primary needs:

  • communication and interaction
  • cognition and learning
  • social, emotional, and mental health difficulties
  • and physical and/or sensory needs.

However, it is unclear which interventions work best with different needs, contexts (mainstream or specialist schools), or phases of education.


Phase 1 will include a systematic review aimed at synthesising existing evidence on the effectiveness of different interventions. Subsequently, we will conduct a meta-analysis on effect sizes for the different interventions and examine how these are mediated by the type of SEND need, educational context, phase of education, study outcomes, and characteristics.

Phase 2 will include in-depth interviews with education professionals which will focus on how targeted interventions are currently used and barriers to implementing the types of effective strategies outlined in the meta-analysis.


Principle investigator


Advisory board

Professor Lani Florian is Bell Chair of Education at the University of Edinburgh and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS). Her research in the field of inclusive education has informed numerous projects and support to inclusive education initiatives in many countries and international agencies including UN agencies (Unesco/Unicef) the British Council, Open Society Foundations, and the Council of Europe. She has also led the previous review for the Department for Education which evaluated teaching strategies and approaches for pupils with SEND (Davis & Florian, 2004). 

Dr Alison O’Mara-Eves is an Associate Professor in the UCL IOE's Evidence for Policy and Practice Information (EPPI) Co-ordinating Centre. O’Mara-Eves specialises in systematic reviewing for social research and quantitative synthesis of research evidence. She has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles in her areas of expertise, including meta-analyses. 

Jon Kay is Head of Evidence Synthesis at the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). He works to promote the use of evidence in schools and policymaking. Jon is responsible for the evidence synthesis work at the EEF including the Teaching and Learning Toolkit and Guidance Reports. He recently authored the EEF’s rapid evidence assessment into remote learning approaches. Jon has been at the EEF since 2014 in a number of roles, including leading the policy team and the publication of reports on EEF funded randomised controlled trials. 

Vijita Patel is a Principal Fellow of Chartered College of Teaching and National Leader of Education (NLE). She is the head teacher for Swiss Cottage School and Development & Research Centre, a 2-19 special needs school in the London Borough of Camden that is committed to providing the best education. 

Dr. Jeremy J. Monsen is Principal Educational and Child Psychologist overseeing the delivery of psychological services across two London boroughs (Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, as part of a Bi-Borough Children’s Service, UK). Jeremy is also seconded as a Lecturer (Honorary) to UCL IOE, University College London, UK, and is a Senior Research Fellow at Christ Church Canterbury University, UK. Jeremy will advise how the findings from this study can be used by educational psychologists and local authorities. 

Dr Erin Early is a Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast. She previously held a Research Fellowship at the Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities in IOE – UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society. Erin’s research interests are centred around social inequalities in education, health and the family. She is experienced in evidence synthesis and has been involved in various systematic reviews and Evidence and Gap Maps that have explored student outcomes.